A Spear of Summer Grass Giveaway

 

There are several authors to whom I look in order to grow as a writer. One would be Dean Koontz (see post here). Another author who is exemplary is Deanna Raybourn. She’s the top, right up there with a Bendel bonnet, a Shakespeare sonnet, and Mickey Mouse. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m a worthless check, a total wreck, a flop, I will say that when I read any of her offerings, I do hear Cole Porter lilt through my mind: Your words poetic are not pathetic, on the other hand, boy, you shine, and I can feel after every line a thrill divine down my spine.

As I said in this Whiskers on Kittens’ post, during the summer months I allow myself the luxury of not adhering to any particular reading requirements. My mountainous To Be Read pile can lay undisturbed if I feel like picking up old favorites. This summer, I did precisely that, and one of the old favorites I was drawn to was Deanna Raybourn’s A Spear of Summer Grass. I just revisited this one and, dear readers, I have to say, it turned up better than I recalled. I didn’t think it was possible, but I liked it even more. And even though I knew how it was going to conclude, I was sorry to see it end. That bittersweet feeling is a hallmark of a good book. 

Now, it’s my supreme pleasure to announce Whiskers on Kittens’ second giveaway. From today through next Monday (July 31st- August 7), you will be eligible to win a copy of Deanna Raybourn’s A Spear of Summer Grass for your very own. Oh, and an even bigger boon: it’s an autographed copy by the author herself! Thank you, Deanna! (I adore autographed copies of my books.) To be eligible:

  1. You must be a subscriber to Whiskers on Kittens (form fill at the bottom of this page)
  2. You must leave a comment about one of your favorite books to revisit and why. You may comment in one of two ways (note: commenting in two different places will not count as two entries; you are only allowed one entry):

    a. Comment on the blog post 

    b. Like and comment on one of my Instagram A Spear of Summer Grass giveaway images (note: you must follow me @eireneday AND @deannaraybourn in order for your Instagram comment to qualify). (P.S. If your email is different from your Instagram name, drop a note via Instagram so I know that you fully qualify for the giveaway.) 

This is the perfect book with which to finish summer. It radiates heat. It’s so palpable, and, at times, nearly palatable. I could choke on the red dust of Africa, exhale the smoke of Sobranies in perfect smoke rings, feel the rice powder dusting my skin to a milky hue, and languish in the cloying heat before the rains. When Raybourn describes Lake Wanyama, I looked out to see hippos, giraffes, cheetahs, antelopes and other beasts. If you wish to feel transported for your own African safari (without the incommodiousness of commercial air travel, which really puts me off nowadays), then this is the book for you. 

The story opens in 1923 Paris, when a council of war, of sorts, is being convened at the posh Hotel de Crillon. The future of our heroine is being discussed by her mother Mossy, stepfather Nigel, and solicitor Quentin. Scandal seems to follow our heroine wherever she goes, some of her making, others decidedly not. But, you know how it is; so does our heroine.

It's De-Lovely, sung by the mellifluous Ella Fitzgerald. Cole Porter seems appropriate for Delilah, sophistication with the just the right amount of wit. 

So, there’s the dilemma. A scandal has brewed, a rather turbulent tempest in the proverbial teapot, but it’s big enough to require distance. The only solution upon which any can settle is Africa. (Because, in the 1920s, who wouldn’t want it to be? It’s just too impossibly novel, especially for those of the ton who bathed in ennui before breakfast.)

And who is our heroine? None other than the delightful, delicious, delectable, delirious, de-luxe, de-lovely Delilah Drummond. (Please, control your desire to curse; I know I crucified that verse.) 

Jane Monheit, songbird extraordinaire, singing Cole Porter's Why Can't You Behave?

Delilah’s a bearcat. All the men want her. All the women want to be her, so much so they hate her. And the women who don’t want to be her, just revel in sitting in judgment of her; I suppose they need something to keep them warm at night. But, let me assure you, reports of her misdeeds have been greatly exaggerated. Most of the time, anyway. After all, where there’s smoke, there’s a bit of fire too. (Oh, Delilah, why can’t you behave? Oh, why can’t you behave?)

Delilah is brazen and bold. She’s fire and she’s ice. And, in the course of the story, you find yourself pitching your tent firmly in her camp. Even more important than loving her, you respect her. Yes, she’s done things, some of which could be deemed objectionable, some of which she regrets, but she’s got a heart of 24 karat gold, though, for much of the novel, she insists that it’s a diamond, hard and unbreakable. (But, really, who’s she fooling?)

Delilah packs up her posh Patous and silk slippers (white silk slippers, because she is just daring and dangerous enough to tempt fate in such fine footwear) and hightails it to her stepfather’s abandoned estate, Fairlight, in Kenya. She has a sentence to serve and she’ll serve it in style, but when it’s done, she’s kicking off the red clay dust of Africa and returning to her jet-setting ways. That’s the plan, and our heroine is stubborn enough to stick to her guns- quite literally. (You should see how she handles herself with a .416 Rigby. That’s not joke. It has quite the kick. And, our heroine handles it with panache, like everything else.)

But there’s a lot Delilah doesn’t bank on. The list could go on and on, but mainly it comes down to the supreme seducer; no, not a man, but Africa. 

Then there’s our hero. What can I say about J. Ryder White? Well, I think Delilah says it best: 

“He wasn’t a pirate of course, but that’s the first impression I ever had of him and first impressions die hard.”

He’s rough, hard, real, raw, and hot as hell. That last bit is not merely based on his physicality, which conjures de-lovely images of its own, but also on the character and attitude of the man. There’s something impossibly seductive about a man who knows who he is to the bone and marrow. Ryder is such a man. Furthermore, he doesn’t care one iota whether he’s liked or not. He evokes Parker: And now I know the things I know, and do the things I do, and if you do not like me so, to hell, my love, with you. That’s Ryder, and he’s fatal. He’s the cat’s meow. Every inch of him. From his sun burnished hair and gold hooped earrings to his mangled, scarred forearm and red dust-caked boots. And, in spite of the scars he carries, within and without, he possesses something that’s even more rare and precious: a pure heart. 

But, then again, so does Delilah. Whatever their souls are made of and all that drivel.

And in the political turmoil of 1920s Kenyan, when the balances have shifted, and the native tribes find their influence in their homeland rapidly diminishing, along with the ridicule of their way of life, a pure heart is tantamount to progress- true, purposeful, meaningful progress. 

Our heroine finds herself embroiled in the misadventures, mayhem, malice, and majesty that is Africa. The longer she stays, the more clearly she sees the way of it: the way of Africa, the way of her heart, the way of her hope, and she’s scared as hell. Delilah Drummond has made frivolity her bulwark and it’s safe there; better not to care too much because caring costs. 

But her friend Tusker says it best:

Can Delilah hold up to the fire and spirit of Africa- to the pressures, to the malice, to the murder, to the injustice? Well, sign up and comment if you want a chance to win A Spear of Summer Grass and find out what happens. 

The giveaway is open from Monday July 31st until Monday August 7th at 11 PM CT. I will announce the winner on August 9th, which also happens to be World Indigenous Peoples Day. (Perfect timing, as Raybourn does an excellent job of conveying the cultures of the Masai, Kikuyu, and other native tribes of Africa.) 

So, tell me, what books do you revisit and why are they dear to you?